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September 18, 2013 -- Berlin holds a special place in Desiree Davila's heart. It was there at the 2009 IAAF World Championships Marathon that the now 30 year-old athlete from Washington, Mich., truly became a world class marathoner.
Sitting back in 28th place at halfway, she steadily worked her way through the field in the second half to finish 11th in 2:27:53, knocking more than four minutes off of her personal best. She nearly caught her more experienced teammate, Kara Goucher, who finished just five seconds ahead of her.
"I ran well there," Davila told Race Results Weekly in a telephone interview yesterday. "I enjoy the city."
Davila, who finished second at the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, will be headed back to Berlin for the BMW Berlin Marathon on Sunday, September, 29. It will be her first marathon start since dropping out of the London Olympic Marathon in August, 2012, after a painful femoral stress fracture made it impossible for her to even make it to the 5-kilometer mark. Hers has been a slow journey back.
"Training's going OK," she said. "It's gone fairly well." She added: "It's been a complete rebuilding year."
Last January, Davila went to see chiropractor John Ball in Phoenix for an assessment. The pair originally decided that a spring marathon might be possible, but they decided that a more gradual return to high level training was a better idea.
"The last thing you need is another six month layoff from an injury," Davila explained. "You have to have tempered expectations."
Working with her longtime coaches Keith and Kevin Hanson, Davila started to do workouts last February and slowly increased her mileage. Improvements were gradual, and she didn't enter a race until last June when she ran the Oakley New York Mini 10-K in New York as a rust-buster. She ran a credible 33:22, good for sixth place.
"I am pretty happy with it," she told Race Results Weekly after the race. "Honestly just getting out here and getting a result and knowing where I am at was great. I think where I am at is a good spot."
Two weeks later, Davila raced at the USA Half-Marathon Championships in Duluth. Like in her world championships marathon in 2009, Davila took a patient approach, allowing Adriana Nelson to build up a 50-second lead, then steadily catching her opponent in the second half. She finished second in 1:11:25.3, just five seconds behind Nelson.
"It was one of those days when I surprised myself," Davila said, recalling the race in Duluth. "It was the first time I was like, OK, maybe I can run well here. I felt like I was competing out there. It was a step in the right direction."
For the Berlin Marathon, Davila plans to take a conservative approach. She knows that getting a solid result in the books--with no injury troubles--is most important right now. She'll be 33 at the time of the Rio Olympics, prime age for a marathoner. Everything she does for the next three years has to support that goal.
"I think I can run under 2:30," she said, not mentioning her 2:22:38 personal best from 2011, the fastest time ever by an American woman at the Boston Marathon. "It would be great if I could run under 2:26, I'd be really excited."
Davila managed to fit in a reconnaissance trip to Berlin last July with Kevin Hanson before getting married to fiance Ryan Linden on August 24. She liked what she saw.
"One of the nice things I like about that course is that it has the possibility of running really fast if I have an 'on' day," she said. "It's a flat, forgiving course."
Photo: Desiree Davila running the 2012 NYRR New York Mini 10-K